Baby boomers want to cling to any remnant of youth possible, and calorie restricted diets are a proven way to extend longevity, but very few are willing to do it. (You’d hafta tape my mouth shut and tie my hands.) Until the age-defying pill is invented, here are five suggestions to live a longer and stronger life.
IF YOU’RE a Rhesus Monkey you have a chance to live substantially longer than your peers; that is if some scientist has caged you and is feeding you a calorie-restricted diet.
Caloric restriction – where you eat just enough of highly nutritious foods to maintain health, but not one calorie extra – has been a focal point of anti-aging research for decades, long enough to have proven its effectiveness with a creature remarkably similar to we humans, the Rhesus Monkey.
But it’s not all about monkeys. At this point, many studies done over a period of 70 years, and with a diverse range of species, have proven that “caloric restriction remains the most effective natural intervention for increasing longevity”, says Jay Williams, Ph.D., an acclaimed physiologist, medical nutritionist, author and researcher.
So, given the all time high demand for a plethora of anti-aging products, procedures and gizmos, what percent of the population do you think are on a caloric-restricted diet?
Nearly zero percent.
A quick glance around any shopping mall is not a scientific method, but it will sure enough confirm my zero percent assertion.
Despite that the baby boomer generation is clinging to their quickly vanishing youth, and are willing to spend money on anything suggesting to be an age modifier, virtually no one is substantially reducing their caloric intake for the purpose of prolonging their health and life span.
That’s because it would take a Herculean effort, and is decidedly no fun. We’re talking a 20 to 40 percent reduction in calories.
Yes, besides longevity, there are benefits to the caloric reduction eating system, such as substantial reductions in diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, brain atrophy – and even wrinkles.
However, this is a two-sided coin. There are issues with such a diet, such as the potential for musculoskeletal losses, insufficient calories and amino acids (protein) for exercise, adverse effects for pregnant women, and more, which you can examine at Wikipedia’s exposition on the topic.
An Alternative to Caloric Restriction
In my view, and in my life, the caloric-restriction diet does not give sufficient benefits to outweigh the risks, plus the desire to maximize the joie de vivre of my life. Although Epicurus might judge my habits to be too merry-less, I concur with Dr. Williams’ suggestions for some eating behaviors that are safer, more enjoyable and sure to help with longevity and health.
Here are Dr. Williams’ four suggestions for a long and strong life — sprinkled, of course, with my expositions – with the addition of one of mine, number 5:
1. Don’t Overeat. The most important factor in your daily eating habits is to ensure you never eat to, or past, the point of fullness. The long-lived Japanese on Okinawa have a term for this: Hara hachi bu! – eat until 80 percent full. Although you may not feel full at the 80 percent mark, about twenty minutes after you put the fork down, you may be. It takes about this amount of time for the stomach to signal the hypothalamus in the brain that no more food is required.
2. Eat Nutritionally Dense Food. Focus on eating smaller meals with a lower caloric density and high nutrient density. Think plant-based diet, rich in vegetables and whole grains. Read my Diet 101 and 86 Year-olds Recipe for Longevity.
3. Know The Ingredients. Avoid eating meals with too many unknown ingredients. Often restaurants add excess oils and ingredients that make a seemingly healthy meal much higher in calories than you’d expect.
4. Exercise Aerobically. Aerobic exercise (the type that builds endurance) is an effective way to improve the production of certain sirtuins. Although you don’t need to be so aerobically devoted to benefit by sirtuin production, a 2010 study on marathon runners displayed a significant increase in sirtuin production post marathon.
And now to my added suggestion, number 5:
5. Exercise Anaerobically. Anaerobic exercise (the type that builds muscle) is now known to help cells maintain their DNA during successive cell division and to amp the production of a protein that slows the aging process. For more on this, read: How Exercise Slows the Aging Process and New Research – Muscles = Longevity.
So, What are Sirtuins?
Sirtuins are proteins that are involved with the regulation of both metabolism and stress homeostasis, and are linked to longer life spans in a range of species from yeast to mice.
Seven forms of sirtuins have been located in humans and have been identified in playing key roles in energy homeostasis in metabolic tissues that are important for longevity.
How do you make more sirtuins? You can either reduce your calories by 20 to 40 percent, or as Dr. Williams puts it:
“Maintaining a healthy energy balance of calories in and out through conscious eating and exercise not only aid in sirtuin mechanisms and metabolism maintenance, but also prevent the deterioration of physiological fitness during the process of aging including oxidative damage, inflammation and lack of protein turnover. These factors are what contribute to our disease susceptibility and our overall aging as well.”
The Bottom Line
What you eat, how much you eat, along with persistent physical activity are the most effective way to age gracefully and live longer.
Someday there may be a pill for longevity, but if you want to live to see that day, better eat better, eat less and exercise more.
P.S. Read more specifics about Dr. Williams views on this topic in her post: Restricting Calories to Live Longer: Does it Work?.
Published on February 2, 2012